Try functioning without half of your brain. You might not be able to remember anything. You might not be able to drive. You might not be able to walk or talk. Now imagine a business that operates using only half its brainpower. It’s destined to fail.
That is the assertion that McLean author and leadership consultant Rebecca Shambaugh makes in her new book, “MAKE ROOM FOR HER: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.”
During a Tuesday, Jan. 29, sunset reception overlooking the Potomac River at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Shambaugh introduced a crowd of nearly 200 business executives from across the country to her new book and her “integrated leadership” model. She detailed how organizations can harness the collective strengths of both men and women to create stronger businesses.
ACCORDING TO SHAMBAUGH, women are not adequately represented in leadership positions. In fact, women make up 51 percent of the American workforce but only hold 15 percent of executive positions.
“In the 21st century, we should be thinking that while men and women’s brains are designed differently, intellectual performance is the same,” she said. “How we go about solving problems, decision making, managing and negotiating are different. It is important to understand not only how our styles are different, but to value and leverage those differences.”
“Integrated leadership is not a woman’s problem, a man’s problem or an organization’s problem. It is everybody’s opportunity and challenge.”
Dr. Christine Dingivan, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), hosted the book launch and was one of the event’s speakers. “I think it comes down … to the fact that companies really have a tremendous need for talent and for innovation in order to stay competitive across a number of different industries,” she said. “The need for diverse talent is incredible and the need for innovation is really at a level that I have never seen in my career, so it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to not embrace half of the population.”
John Hart, a Falls Church resident and chief executive officer of the Impact Center in Washington, D.C., attended the book launch and noted that the audience comprised industry leaders who struggle with the issue of diversity daily. “Everyone had a lot of esteem and respect for Becky … and the contribution that she is making to advance a more inclusive workplace and society,” he said.
Women should start by moving outside of their comfort zones, says Shambaugh. “Women need to realize that their thinking styles and strengths are needed and valued in today’s marketplace, and they need to start showing up with those,” she said. “It is also about reaching out and identifying sponsors and mentors who can see our abilities and help us gain a greater access to visibility and opportunities.”
USING CASE STUDIES AND INTERVIEWS with dozens of top executives to prove her point, Shambaugh stressed that integrated leadership requires an integrated approach: “It is not a woman’s problem, a man’s problem or an organization’s problem,” she said. “It is like a three-legged stool. It is everybody’s opportunity and challenge.”
That’s one of the book’s strengths, according to Dingivan: It focuses on women in business leadership, but it also underscores the importance of integrating the strengths and talent of both men and women to improve overall performance. “The book actually provides a lot of practical tools and perspectives to help both men and women learn how to work more effectively and therefore drive better business results,” she said.
Bill Richardson, senior vice president of global business development at Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) and another speaker at the book launch, stressed that Shambaugh’s integrated leadership model is crucial for success in the 21st century. “Given the importance of global markets, the emergence of new generations—generations X and Y—in the workforce and the need for diversity in decision making, an integrated leadership model is necessary for success,” he said. “The book provides reasons why this new model is critical, statistics to support the thesis and a compelling argument to either get on board the train or get left behind.”
Judy Douglas, a technology industry executive who also attended the book launch, believes Shambaugh’s cutting-edge ideas come from “real-life insights” gained from interviews with those in leadership positions. “Diversity is the key,” said Douglas. “It isn’t simply about swelling the ranks of women executives, though that is certainly a priority. It’s a priority because all signs point to the richness emerging from balanced teams, balanced among gender, culture and generation.”